BETHESDA, Md--One hundred years after W. Konrad Roentgen's discovery
of the x-ray (which he refused to patent), the field of radiology
continues to produce "wondrous accomplishments," such
as modern digital, cross-sectional, and interventional radiology,
Alexander R. Margulis, MD, associate chancellor, Special Projects,
University of California, San Francisco, said at a conference
sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Margulis credits recent advances in radiology to the "close
cooperation among industry, universities, basic scientists, and
academic and clinical radiologists." This theme was echoed
by Tom Miller, vice president, Imaging Systems Group, Siemens
Medical Systems, Inc., who believes that radiology will keep pace
with the changes in health-care delivery.
Custom Fit or Mass Production?
"The provision of health care is entering a period of mass
production, after a long interval of customization," Mr.
Miller said, citing the formation of business networks, use of
standardized practice guidelines, and reliance on practice review
meetings to minimize expensive deviations from a standard. "And
health care is beginning to practice the kind of economy of scale
that other businesses have long used," he added.
Hospitals, for example, are joining or forming networks to capture
large managed care contracts' increasing profitability, he said.
Mr. Miller cited magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as a good example
of the move to mass production in the field of radiology. In the
early 1960s, each MRI system was customized for the facility that
ordered it, which led to high cost.
"Now we have mass production and standardization. With only
slight modifications, an MRI in rural Nevada will be the same
system placed in downtown Chicago. This has significantly reduced
the cost," Mr. Miller said.